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When should you see the doctor?

22 August 2017

Coughs, colds and feeling under the weather is common during autumn and winter, but some symptoms could be a sign of something more sinister. Find out more.

Couple visiting doctor
It’s OK to bring someone with you to a GP appointment for support.

Public Health England’s ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign urges people to more aware of their body and the symptoms they are experiencing.

Getting out of breath doing things you used to be able to do, or having a cough that has lasted for three weeks or more, could be a sign of lung disease, including lung cancer.

Breathlessness can also be a sign of heart disease. Those experiencing these symptoms should book an appointment with their GP to get it checked out. 

Public Health England has created a list of 10 top tips to help you book your GP appointment today:

1.   Pay attention to your body. Symptoms, and particularly those that persist, are your body’s way of telling you that something might be wrong 

2.   It’s understandable to be worried or embarrassed about some types of symptoms, but don’t let this stop you making a GP appointment. Your GP is trained to deal with whatever ailment is worrying you

3.   Remember, you’re not wasting anyone’s time by getting your symptoms checked out. Seeing your doctor early could save your life as early detection can make it more treatable.

4.   Be honest with the receptionist when you make your appointment. They are bound by confidentiality and are trained to recognise the importance of your symptoms to give you an appropriate appointment.

5.   Prepare for your appointment by writing a list about your symptoms: when they started, how often they occur and what makes them better or worse. Also write down any questions you want to ask your GP.

6.   It’s ok to bring someone with you to a GP appointment for support. This can be a family member or friend.

7.   During the appointment, the GP may ask you a lot of questions, but this is so they can determine your diagnosis. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your own questions if you don’t understand something.

8.   Ask your doctor about what will happen next. There may be a follow-up appointment or referral for tests. Ask what the tests are for and how or when you will get the results.

9.   If your doctor recommends that you book follow up appointments, it’s very important make this with the receptionist and attend the appointments. It’s important to see your doctor again if your symptoms persist and are concerning you.

10. If a medical condition is diagnosed, ask about your treatment options. You can discuss with your doctor what will be best for you, any risk of side effects and how long the treatment will take.

By Dr Richard Roope, RCGP/CRUK Clinical Champion for Cancer

For more information about the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, lung disease and heart disease, visit

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.